People who are always willing to be there for others in a pinch are viewed with great adoration in society.
With good reason – no one can truly be an island in and of themselves. We’ve all had times in our lives when we’ve needed to rely on others to get through a difficult situation.
However, offers of help don’t always come from a healthy place.
Years back, I was always the first person to raise my hand with an offer to help others.
I loved being able to give back, to make a difference and to feel like I was contributing to something that would help make someone else’s life better.
The problem wasn’t that I was offering help.
It was that I was doing so reflexively. Almost compulsively.
I was doing so to the detriment of my own self.
I didn’t ever stop to truly reflect on whether or not I had time to do what I was offering, or what other competing priorities would have to be put on pause because of this new commitment.
The end result was that I was chronically overstressed and resentful of how much I always had on my plate.
Does this sound familiar to you at all?
The truth of the matter is that I used to offer help for all of the wrong reasons. I did it because I wanted to be liked. Because I couldn’t tolerate the feelings that came up within me when people asked who could volunteer and no one spoke up. I did it because I had a hard time saying “no”.
The good news is that if you find yourself feeling similarly, there are things we can do to redefine our relationship with helping to rediscover the true joy that can come from helping those around us.
Make sure you are offering help for the right reasons
I no longer get myself caught up in situations where I agree to help someone else, only to regret it and resent the situation later on. This happens because I make sure that I’m offering my help for the right reasons.
If you’re someone who gets caught up offering your help before you’ve even stopped to truly consider if you want to say yes, then here are some guidelines to consider before making a commitment:
- Sacrifice. In the process of helping others, are you having to completely sacrifice your own needs? Are your goals and projects getting constantly pushed aside in the service of helping others?
- Guilt. Are you offering help because you feel that you should be? Do you feel guilty to say no?
- Fear. Are you afraid of how you may be perceived if you were to say no? Is fear of the possible repercussions on your relationship with the person doing the asking feeding your desire to say yes?
- You know best. Do you offer help because you think that you know better? Do you believe that without your help, others would be left in a situation that they aren’t capable of handling on their own? Stepping back may just be the best way to force you to reconsider this notion.
- You’re expecting something in return. Nothing is worse than when someone accepts to help you, only for you to realize later on that the person now feels that you owe them in return. This is reciprocity gone entirely wrong.
If you’re offering help to someone with the expectation of something in return, then it isn’t truly a gift of your time. Making clear from the outset that your offer of help is conditional on whatever you are expecting to get in return will avoid a lot of problems down the line.
Do any of the items on this list resonate with you?
If so, then the next time someone asks you for help, before answering, take a moment to consider what is truly driving your desire to help.
The best thing to say in the moment may simply be “let me think about it and get back to you”.
It’s natural for us to want to help others. Helping others can be incredibly gratifying.
Giving help to others should feel like giving a gift. When we give someone a birthday present, we don’t do so with the expectation of receiving something in return. The same should be true when we give help to someone.
Giving help with no strings attached, simply because we want to (and not because we feel we have to) will help to restore your interest in helping others without burning yourself out in the process.
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